Swimming is better than walking for fitness and weight control in older women, according to new research from The University of Western Australia.
Lead author of the study, Dr Kay Cox, of UWA's School of Medicine and Pharmacology, said there had previously been little research on the health benefits of swimming for any age group. Almost 120 sedentary women took part in the 12-month Perth-based study, with six months of randomly assigned supervised 40-minute walking or swimming three times a week before six months of unsupervised exercise.
"Until now, swimming was thought to have the same health benefits as other aerobic exercise such as cycling, jogging or walking," Dr Cox said. "This study demonstrates that swimming is effective in weight loss and maintenance, especially compared to walking.
"Knowing that exercise has health benefits is known to motivate people. And for overweight people, swimming may be a safer option, with less stress on the joints and muscles.
"Physical activity tends to decrease with age, and more so in older women. This is also the age group where women catch up to men in terms of the onset of heart disease symptoms. Therefore, we targeted this age group to attempt to change physical activity behaviour before an increasingly sedentary lifestyle could have lasting effects on their health."
The study, published recently in the international journal Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, also evaluated the women's lipids, glucose and insulin. It was found that compared with walking, swimming improved body weight, body fat distribution and insulin in the short-term and, in the longer term, body weight and blood fats such as cholesterol.
Research Assistant Professor Dr Kay Cox (+61 8) 9224 0237 / (+61 4) 08 922 851
UWA School of Medicine and Pharmacology, (RPH Unit)
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 5563 / (+61 4) 32 637 716